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Holst Conducts Holst [Import]

Gustav Holst Audio CD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
Sadly the audio quality is abysmal on this recording of Holst conducting Holst, with some instruments barely being audible, and others sounding like they've been played through a sheet of tracing paper, with crackle and occasionally even scratch-like pulses adding to the assault.
All of which is unfortunate, because from what I could hear, Holst's style is significantly different in many areas from that of most versions I've heard. It will be of interest to any serious fan of The Planets, and it's worth listening to once to get a sense of what Holst intended his music to sound like. But it's not a real alternative to a recent recording, and shouldn't be treated as such.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Historically important, but you'll need another version too Feb. 14 2002
By Paul E. Harrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Sadly the audio quality is abysmal on this recording of Holst conducting Holst, with some instruments barely being audible, and others sounding like they've been played through a sheet of tracing paper, with crackle and occasionally even scratch-like pulses adding to the assault.
All of which is unfortunate, because from what I could hear, Holst's style is significantly different in many areas from that of most versions I've heard. It will be of interest to any serious fan of The Planets, and it's worth listening to once to get a sense of what Holst intended his music to sound like. But it's not a real alternative to a recent recording, and shouldn't be treated as such.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be so quick to judge the "poor" sound quality Sept. 7 2005
By Dan K - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Yes, this WAS recorded a long time ago in the days of the "less sophisticated" sound equiptment. But I actually think that this is for the better. There are two main reasons This review is long, so if you don't want to read it all, cut to the second reason:

For one thing, it sounds more like an orchestra playing. We are in a day where the digital sound is so precise, that we are not listening to perforers anymore. We are hearing performers being digitally altered on a computer. This raw sound has much more livelyness to it. On top of that, these guys really play with a lot of spirit.

But more importantly, the older recording equiptment is an improvement because it forces the orchestra to play loud enough. Too often, orchestras overdue the dynamic of soft. There is nothing wrong with playing softer, but when it is so soft that it can't be heard, than there is no point in it. This equiptment is so old that it will not pick up sounds that are too soft. Therefore, in order to be picked up, the orchestra is forced to play louder than they would have liked to. All the more better for us. This is the first version of the planets where I have actually been able to hear the majority of Neptune and Venus and not just little blurbs from them.

Oh yeah, one more thing. It is one of the most wonderfully composed pieces of classical music out there. It is one of the essentials of a classical music collection. So even if you don't get this particular recording, I would still recommend the Planets. And yes, I didn't proof read, there are probably typos.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Authenticity, Despite Poor Sound May 4 2005
By Jeffrey Lipscomb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Be warned: this 1923 acoustic recording of the composer conducting his masterpiece "The Planets" (1914-1916) has poor sound and rather amateurish orchestral playing. But if you love this work, you owe it to yourself to hear this utterly extraordinary performance. I feel it takes us deeper into the strange world of Holst's imagination than any other recorded version, including the composer's later (1926) electrical recording. The latter performance - a lacklustre reading in only slightly better sound - was formerly available on an EMI CD in that label's "Composers In Person" series. I have kept my copy of the EMI only because of the coupling: Elgar's 1926 performance of the Enigma Variations (fascinating!). Holst's 2nd Planets also appeared on a deleted Koch CD in slightly better sound, coupled with Vaughan Williams conducting his own 4th Symphony (for me, the work's greatest-ever reading). I disposed of the Koch when the Vaughan Williams appeared in a better re-mastering on a Dutton CD (coupled with Barbirolli's 1st recording of Elgar's 5th).

What makes Holst's acoustic version so special? Sheer energy, for one thing. Holst's players may not hit all the notes correctly, but they play like inspired madmen. Mars is fast and incredibly menacing: in both his versions, Holst clocks in at the same 6:18 (Steinberg's brilliant reading on DG, often criticised for being too fast, comes in at 6:43). Just listen to the huge swells in the orchestra starting at 3:00 - it's like being in the middle of "The Perfect Storm." The violins play with absolutely no vibrato, creating an atmosphere that's aptly out of this world. The portamento-laden Venus is unlike any other performance, with very piquantly played winds. Mercury is rendered with a Mendelssohnian lightness that is un-matched by anyone since. And so on throughout: each episode is rendered with sharply rhythmic inflection and highly characterized melodies (even Boult sounds slightly unidiomatic after hearing Holst's way with Jupiter).

All the other items on this disc demonstrate the same attention to accentuated rhythms and distinctive characterization. Frankly, the St. Paul's Suite (with its echoes of Bartok!) and Beni Mora here are quite simply the most hypnotic accounts in my experience.

My favorite account of "The Planets" in stereo is Steinberg's with the Boston Symphony (DG). I'm also fond of the Stokowski "live" account with the NBC Symphony (Cala). The original two-piano version is a fascinating supplement. It can be heard in an excellent performance by Richard Rodney Bennett and Susan Bradshaw (Delos CD).

"The Planets" was an incredibly influential score. You can't listen to Grofe's "Grand Canyon Suite," Herrmann's film score for "Day The Earth Stood Still," Goldsmith's music for "Alien," or any of the John Williams "Star Wars" movies without hearing echoes of Holst. But even if you think you already know "The Planets," you may find that this ancient recording is like meeting Holst's masterpiece for the first time.

Very highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting for an historical perspective Aug. 7 2006
By Michael Christie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I rated this recording as three stars because the document itself is fascinating. The quality however is shocking. In preparing to conduct the Planets myself I fould some interesting answers to questions I had. Be sure to buy a modern day recording along side this one so you see the evolution. I think Bernstein/NY Phil is surprisingly close to the Holst tempi and energy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holst Conducts The Planets Jan. 15 2011
By Robert E. Nylund - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
It was amazing and wonderful to learn that Gustav Holst had made a complete, electrical recording of his orchestral masterpiece, "The Planets." It was actually one of the earliest electrical recordings made in the U.K., dating from 2 July 1926. He had made a few acoustical recordings of other works before that. I don't know why Holst didn't make more recordings, especially with the electrical process. The breakthrough of using a single carbon microphone to transfer the sounds to a recording machine, which was perfected in early 1925, greatly expanded the capabilities of recording an orchestra. With the old acoustical process it was very difficult to record a full orchestra and some sounds simply didn't record very well. All of this changed when the technicians finally found a way to use the electrical process, used as early as 1920 to record radio programs, to make commercial discs.

Holst's recording with the London Symphony Orchestra appears to have been made in a larger studio, certainly not a concert hall. There were a few early ventures in recording live performances at venues such as the Crystal Palace and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Listening to this recording, it's clear that room acoustics were rather dry. Nevertheless, the carbon microphone managed to pick up quite a bit and this definitely gives a good idea of the performance.

The music itself is played with great emotion and quite a variety of moods, quite in keeping with what Holst intended since he was conveying the astrological associations with the seven planets other than the Earth itself. He wrote this before Pluto was discovered and, as it ultimately turned out, Pluto isn't really a full planet anyway. The music has always been quite enjoyable and it is a real treat to hear the composer conduct it. That said, there are a full flubs which were included in the original 78-rpm discs. It was, of course, necessary (in the days before tape) to completely rerecord a side if something went wrong and whether that was done in this case is hard to say. For the most part, the orchestra plays quite well and we get a good idea of what Holst wanted.

Holst's daughter Imogen wrote many years ago, when the recording was reissued on a modern LP, that the only real problem with the recording was trying to capture the gradual fade-out of the women's chorus at the end of Neptune. It was almost possible to achieve the real fade-out that the composer intended, which was usually done in concerts by having the women slowly walk away and/or even closing doors. So, the solution, at some point, was simply to slowly turn down the volume until the disc ended. It appears the sound had not been turned down quite enough when the capacity of the 12-inch 78-rpm disc had been reached.

Overall, however, this is a great musical experience and Holst's interpretation of his own music should serve as a model and guide to others.
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